When I was a good bit younger I used to chuckle at old folks who would look at newspaper obituary pages in search of their friends’ names.
Many of those old folks would joke about whether their own names were in there. “Good, not there yet,” they might say.
It’s a rite of passage. It becomes something that everyone goes through, I guess.
I’m now getting up in age myself. I don’t see the newspaper regularly, but when I do I find myself gravitating to the obit page to find names and faces I know. Sadly, those names and faces show up with increasing regularity.
Yes, time does bring about the loss of friends. And family.
I received a call this morning from my sister informing me that my wonderful Aunt Libby had died.
Elizabeth Kanelis is the fourth of my father’s generation to pass. Dad was the first, followed by his brother Tom and his sister Eileen. Libby has joined them, leaving only three of the seven siblings still with us.
Libby was one of a kind. She worked for many years for Ma Bell, aka the “Phone Company.” She left there and went back to college in her late 30s. She earned her degree — which gave her and all of us a great deal of pride — and then taught English to high school students in Portland, Ore., before retiring from that job.
She was married once — briefly — to a guy named Chuck.
I have a lot of memories of Libby while growing up. I feel compelled to share a couple of them here.
Libby was a great athlete. She played in a women’s semi-pro softball league; I’m guessing it was when she was in her 20s.
I used to play catch with her. If she came to our house, of if we gathered at my grandparents’ house, we usually found time to toss a ball around.
Whether throwing a baseball or football, Libby did not throw it “like a girl.” I’m telling you, she had an arm. She could throw a baseball as hard as any guy I ever saw and the spiral on a football she threw was tight enough to make any college or pro football player proud. She maintained her athletic prowess even as I became a teenager.
We played golf on occasion. And, oh by the way, she was no duffer.
Libby could be outspoken and blunt. That was part of her charm. She also was self-deprecating and had no trouble making fun of herself.
I didn’t hear this directly, but I got it from my other sister, who related a story Libby told about herself to my sis and her then-quite young daughter. She was talking about a cruise she had taken with one of her sisters, who — Libby said — had met this “special friend” aboard ship. My other aunt and this gentleman spent time on the ship enjoying the sights and, oh, you know …
As my sister told me the story, she remembered her daughter asking Libby, “Aunt Libby, did you meet anyone special on the ship, too?” Oh sure, Libby said. “I managed to bag a bellhop in the boiler room.”
My sister and I cannot tell that story to this day without busting out in hysterical laughter.
I took some time a few weeks ago to see Libby. I flew to Portland for the purpose of seeing her. She had suffered a stroke not long ago. Her memory wasn’t good. She had trouble constructing sentences and then uttering them. But when I walked into her room, I was heartened that she recognized me right away.
We had a wonderful visit. I just sat there and looked at her, recalling a long-ago time.
Yes, it happens to everyone. Our time on Earth comes to an end eventually.
I just wanted to introduce you to a member of my family who I loved very much and who has left me with many cherished memories.
The passage of time has this way of triggering those thoughts, too.